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Dark Recollections (1990)

Dark Recollections is the first and only full-length album to be released by the legendary Swedish death metal band, Carnage. For those not familiar with this band, first of all, you should be flogged and tortured in a variety of manners, as this album is one of the true classics of this musical style. After beginning with a different approach, the band shifted its sound and took on members from the then-defunct band known as Dismember, prior to recording their first L.P. Released in early 1990 as a split with Cadaver's Hallucinating Anxiety (but also as a stand-alone album), this record actually beat out Entombed's Left Hand Path by some months.

Musically, Dark Recollections is the epitome of Swedish death metal. Recorded at Sunlight Studio, this is one of the earliest albums to feature the famous buzsaw guitar tone that many bands soon opted to utilize. This sound dates back to the old Nihilist recordings, so it is not a surprise that people identify this more with Entombed rather than Carnage. At this point, Carnage was basically Dismember, even including a handful of that band's demo tunes on the L.P. Matti's vocals are a bit deeper here, more in the style that L.G. was using and with a bit less of a throaty quality to it. The drumming, as with many of the old Swedish bands, showed a punk rock influence that really differentiated this scene from the death metal that was being spawned elsewhere. Every now and then, blast beats are thrown in, but these are rather infrequent. The vibe of the old Death and Autopsy albums was present, here and there, but Carnage really set about doing something unique here that went beyond much of what had existed before. The riffs are intense and show flashes of brilliance, from time to time. The speed of many of the songs takes what was being done in Thrash to the next level, with a violent edge that many of those bands lacked. Yet there is a great dynamic range on display here, with many mid-paced riffs thrown in, creating an ominous feeling. This tendency to incorporate doom riffs was one of the trademarks of the scene, back then. The lead solos accentuate this atmosphere, really adding an eerie quality to the music. This does well to generate somewhat of a horror vibe, which is important in all classic death metal and something that seems to have been lost over the years. In fact, when comparing Dark Recollections with Like an Ever Flowing Stream, the lack of haunting melodies may be one of the more noticeable differences. Occasionally, a cold-sounding tremolo riff will emerge from the darkness, though the band rarely capitalized on these. A good example is the opening guitar melody of "Deranged from Blood".

The production is rather flawless for this type of music. The guitars are heavy, though not quite possessing the same sharp edge as found on Dismember's debut, which may have added a little something. Everything comes together to create a bludgeoning sound that leaves your skull in pieces, very similar to Left Hand Path and Sumerian Cry from Tiamat. The drumming sounds rather natural and is at a good level in the mix, never overpowering the guitars. This is the type of intense percussion that is needed in death metal, just straight-forward and barbaric and doing well to push along the thick and crushing guitar riffs.

With so many retro bands out there, in recent years, it is important that people take notice and go back to explore the original albums. More times than not, the real quality is to be found in the past, not the present. An album like Dark Recollections is infinitely more inspired and significant than most anything being released these days, regardless of the praise and hype received by certain bands. If you want old school Swedish death metal in the same vein as early Entombed and Dismember, then your best bet is to spend your time and money seeking this out. Carnage doesn't seem to be as remembered as some of the other bands of that era, which is a shame since this material is stronger than a large majority of the rest. If you haven't heard this yet, do something about that, immediately.
(4 Jan. 2013)

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